Brian Regan has performed stand-up comedy for the last three decades and recently made history on September 26, 2015, with the critically-acclaimed live broadcast of Brian Regan: Live From Radio City Music Hall, Comedy Central’s first live broadcast of a stand-up special.
He is on a non-stop national theater tour and is coming to Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall, November 6. I received an opportunity to interview the comedy icon about his journey as a stand-up, his goals in the future, and other stuff on television.
Remus: How did you feel after playing Radio City?
Well, it was intense. It was an idea that I had pitched, well, to my manager, and he pitched it to them (Comedy Central). They had never done a live special on Comedy Central, so I was happy they were supportive of the idea. I had also never performed in Radio City Music Hall and I lived in New York for almost eight years and I never even stepped foot in there, I never saw a show in there. So, it was cool to do that iconic venue, but then to also have it be a live special. It was just very intense. I don’t surf, but for some reason I’m making a surfing analogy. It’s like being on this super, giant, high wave and you’re just on your surfboard and you’re like just stay on, man. It’s always helpful when you have a crowd doing its part. Comedy cannot be done in a vacuum. It’s a two-way street. You need an audience and when they’re there with you, it could be a very fun experience and I don’t mean this selfishly. I like the fact that the crowd gets to have a good time too.
Considering your tour schedule, how often do you go out into the city where you’re performing?
Not as much as I’d like because I tend to do ‘one-nighters’ now. [chuckles] I don’t know what made me think of this, but I was watching Forensic Files last night. I didn’t even see the end of it, but they were talking about some famous singer from the 50s who was involved in some kind of thing and they were saying, “He did what is known in show business as ‘one-nighters.’” [laughs] I don’t know why that is so sinister. I was like ‘oh my gosh, I do one-nighters. [laughs] So, anyway I do one-nighters and you can read into that what you will, but because of that, I don’t get to experience these cities the way I would like. You know, I get to see them, I mean I’ll go into town and I’ll go ‘wow, this place looks pretty cool,’ but I don’t get to go to the museums or see the historic buildings or anything like that, so that’s a downside with ‘one-nighters.’
Have you ever performed sketch or improv comedy?
Years ago when I was doing comedy clubs, sometimes the comedians on the show would want to do improv at the end of the night. They would get on stage and people would shout out suggestions and that sort of thing. I participated a little bit in that, but it was never really my thing. I respect the art form and like people that are good at it, but I like to have some idea of what I’m going to say when I hit the stage.
What is your favorite thing to watch on television?
I like real stuff, which means not reality shows. I like news, I like sports, I like documentaries, I like things like that. I think the last fictional thing I got into was The Sopranos and I loved it, but I don’t have time to watch a series. I don’t know how people do that and I guess a lot people do it with binge watching. I don’t have a day to set aside and watch a t.v. show, so I don’t get into any of that.
What do you think about the recent clown scare in the news?
I don’t know why they’re so hard to catch. They certainly have a lot of pictures of them. Why doesn’t the guy with the camera throw the camera down and go tackle them and solve the problem. ‘Here he is, here’s that scary clown, everybody can enjoy their lives again!’
Who are some of your favorite comics?
Man, there are so many people doing good things. I’ve always been a fan of Jerry Seinfeld. I just like how he gets a lot of mileage out of a very simple subject. Of people who have passed away, I like George Carlin, obviously, for his body of work and how he did it. Mitch Hedberg was fantastic. More people from today, I like Sebastian Maniscalco, Maria Bamford, Bill Burr, … there’s a huge list.
All of those comics are great. I remember reading a Jerry Seinfeld book when I was younger and realizing he basically published his sets. When I would see some of his sets for the opening of his show, I’d be like, “I read that in his book.”
He has the famous quote, ‘the trick with a comedian is taking that kind of comedy, which is in one container, and pouring it into another container.’ He meant for a t.v. show, but the analogy still works for a book. I wonder what that was like to be, I mean, he was basically on top of the world. Not that he’s not now, but to have the number one show in television. That’s got to be quite a ride.
How often do you watch other comics’ sets?
Sometimes, not often, because usually I’m doing it myself, but occasionally if I’m not on the road and I finish my show. We’ll try to shoot over to the comedy club that’s in town and maybe catch somebody’s act. Its fun to watch other people do it, but I also like to shut that part of my life off too. I guess that’s why I like watching serious stuff on t.v. because I live in the comedy world, so its nice to participate in the world that’s not so funny sometimes.
Do you have any rituals before a show?
This sounds pretty lame, but I re-tie my shoes, so they’re nice and tight, so they don’t come undone on while I’m on stage because that is an awkward moment. I had a show before where my shoes come untied, and you know, you got to put the mic down while you tie your shoe. It’s probably the lamest form of entertainment in the world. To have a room full of people, ‘We watched a guy tie his shoe. Guess where we went, we went and paid and watched a guy tie his shoe.’ So, I try not to have people endure watching me tie my shoes on stage.
You could end up being a pioneer, ‘This guy brought shoe-tying comedy to us!
Shoe-tyin’ guy is coming to town! You missed it last time, don’t miss it this time!
Next time, he’ll have both of them untied.
He comes out with them untied. It’s unbelievable! The whole show, you’re just on the edge of your seat, ‘When is he gonna tie those babies?’
He only ties them after a standing ovation…
What do you think has contributed most to your longevity and success in your career?
I don’t know, and I don’t mean that flippantly. I’m fortunate to be able to keep doing this. I guess, clearly, you have to be funny, you know. My guess beyond that is I keep trying to turn the material over. So, when people come out to see me my hope is that if they saw me two years prior, they’re going to go, ‘Hey man, a lot that stuff was new.’ And that maybe will entice them to, maybe when I come two years from now, to come again. So, I like it to be funny, but I also like it to be new. Hopefully that adds to whatever people seem to like about it.
Performing at Radio City Music Hall was huge. What is your next goal?
As much as I like doing stand-up and I would never want to give that up. I would like to do some other things, you know, I’d like to wear the acting hat for a short time. Not in a big way, but just to explore it a little bit. I had a part in that Chris Rock movie that came out and that was fun. I’d like to do something like that again. I’d also love an opportunity to do a t.v. show based on how I think as a stand up comedian… and if somebody gave me that opportunity, I’d love to take it.
And I want to be a master sculptor, but of those three, I think the odds of the master sculptor quest are pretty low, but what the heck, you know? I want somebody to deliver a big giant piece of monolithic clay to my condo and go, ‘Have at it! Have at it, dreamer!’
You could just brand it. ‘This is a genuine Brian Regan sculpture, here!’ Regardless of its mastery.
I want to work on it for like six months and have people go, ‘He took a big giant square and he made it a smaller square.’
For more info or tickets to the show, click here.